Food Service Warehouse
Toll-Free: 1-877-877-5655
Se habla español 877-877-5491

Fundamentals of Wine Glassware

Fundamentals of Wine Glassware

Fundamentals of Wine Glassware

Wine Basics for the Bartender Part 3: Fundamentals of Wine Glassware

Believe it or not, the shape and size of a wine glass can actually affect the taste of a wine. Selecting the right wine glass has a lot to do with the establishment, and the type of impression it wants to achieve with the guests. Quality stemware is thin and tapers at the rim rather than rolling to a thick edge. Both red and white wine glasses are often designed with ample bowls and narrower tops, so that the wine can be swirled around that the aromas can gather at the top for a fuller wine tasting experience. Some restaurants use all-purpose wine glasses for both red and white wines. These glasses have medium bowls and a slight taper at the top. They are perfectly acceptable, but may disappoint a wine connoisseur.

How to Choose Your Wine Glasses

Different restaurants and bars choose their glassware with different priorities in mind. Bars that serve mainly tap beer and cocktails may have a few wine glasses on hand, but they will likely be low-cost, all-purpose glasses. Wine bars, however, specialize in creating an experience centered on wine, and the wine glasses involved are carefully thought-out. Many establishments choose red wine glasses for serving red wine, and white wine glasses for their whites. There are also particular styles of glassware for serving sherry and champagne. The following explains a little about how these types of glasses differ.

Red Wine Glasses

Red wine glasses can typically distinguished from white wine glasses because they have a wider, deeper bowl. When more wine is exposed to oxygen, the more the flavors are able to open up. Choose a glass with a wide bowl but narrower mouth--a shape similar to an egg. These are easy to cup in one hand, allowing the wine to warm slightly from body heat; this is okay when it comes to red wines. Wider bowls are also easier to swirl without spilling, helping expose more of the wine to the air and release crucial aromas. Fine, full-bodied wines such as Pinot Noir benefit from wine glasses with large bowls, such as a burgundy style wine glass, which help bring out the flavors--a must for more expensive wines. Bigger, bolder red wines like Syrah or Malbec may not need as large a bowl, especially if the wines are young and less complex. 

White Wine Glasses

White wine glasses are often smaller in capacity than red wine glasses, with a narrower design from bottom to top. Like most red wine glasses they are usually egg-shaped yet often more narrow than red wine glasses. White wines are designed to be consumed within a few years after fermentation, so the larger bowl is not as necessary as with aged red wines that have deeper complexity. The narrow openings allow for the bouquet to gather and accentuate the drinking experience, even though the bowl is typically smaller. 

Champagne Glasses

Sparkling white wine and champagne are served in tall, thin glasses, often called champagne flutes. Much like a pilsner glass, this allows the bubbles to be directed all the way to the top of the glass, making the carbonation last longer and improving the aroma.

Sherry Glasses

Sherry is a fortified wine made from Spanish grapes. After fermentation, brandy is added, creating a sweeter flavor than many port wines. Sherry glasses are often used for dessert wines of all sorts, since they are much smaller in capacity, often between 2 and 7 oz. These glasses sometimes taper or flare at the top.

Choosing Wine Glasses on a Budget

Some bar managers want nice wine glasses to serve wine, but cannot afford the best of the best, or even a different type of glass for red and white wines. This is not uncommon; restaurants and bars constantly deal with broken or chipped glassware, and for many bars the cost of replacing glassware is right up there with the cost of the liquor itself. Similarly, a home wine enthusiast may want to purchase a single set of wine glasses he or she can use for red and white wine, rather than two sets or more.

Consider Popular or Favorite Varietal

At a bar, the winning all-purpose wine glass is often the one that corresponds with the highest selling wine varietal. For example, the wine bar that sells Cabernet Sauvignon more than any other wine might decide on a Cabernet Sauvignon wine glass to use with all their red wines, if they need to watch their glassware budget. At home, you might consider your favorite varietal when choosing a single set of wine glasses. For instance, the Pinot Noir drinker may find a set of affordable Pinot Noir wine glasses to use with Pinots and for other red wines as well, and even whites if there are no other glasses available. Varietal-specific wine glasses are designed to bring out the aromas, flavors, and intricacies of different wines, but the experience will not be ruined for most people if a Cabernet is drunk from a Pinot Noir glass.

Consider the Intended Use

When purchasing wine glasses particularly for special occasions, restaurant managers as well as wine hobbyists will often spend a little extra on glasses with cut and polished rims, hand-blown glass bowls and fine, long stems. These glasses are grand and perfect for fine occasions, but for everyday use they may be a tad extravagant. In addition frequency of use, think about how the glasses will be washed and cared for. Washing wine glasses in the dishwasher is not the best idea with delicate stemware and thin glass. In this case, machine-made glasses and sturdier stems might be the best choice.

Choose a Suitable All-Purpose Glass

An all-purpose wine glass might be the glass of choice for someone looking for a single glass type that can be used often and for different varietals. Although the experience may not be as complete and memorable as it would be with the perfect wine glass, these provide function at a lower cost and with lower risk of breakage. Specifically, look for an all-purpose glass with a shorter stem that can be easily washed in a dishwasher--either commercial or residential--as well as a thicker, rolled glass rim or one that will resist chipping and cracks. A good example of an all-purpose wine glass is the 7 1/4 oz D.O.C. Wine Glass from Libbey.

Wine Glassware Recommendations

The following table lists specific types of wine, their key characteristics and the recommended glassware for each type. This provides a good starting point for bar managers or home bar enthusiasts to find a set of wine glasses that meets their needs.

 Type of Wine  Wine Style   Recommended Glassware 
 Champagne  A bright, sparkling white wine often enjoyed during celebrations  
 Port  A sweet, dessert wine fortified with a grape spirit  
 Sherry Sweet wine fortified with brandy, often a dessert wine or wine used for cooking   
 Barbera  A popular red table wine with berry and plum notes and high acidity  
 Cabernet Sauvignon  A powerful, sharp wine that becomes soft and silky smooth as it ages  
 Malbec  A dry red wine with pronounced tannin and peppery, rich flavors  
 Merlot  A soft, approachable red wine with fruity, floral flavors and a medium acidity  
 Syrah/Shiraz  A dry, yet bold red wine with big flavors and a round, smooth mouthfeel  
 Pinot Noir  A dry red wine with earthy, fruity aromas and a smooth, sensual mouthfeel  
 Zinfandel  A wine from a grape now produced exclusively in California, key to making a variety of wines, both red and white  
 Chardonnay  A dry white wine from the Chardonnay grape, known for producing some of the world's finest wines  
 Gewurztraminer  A mild, sweet wine with a smooth taste and deep aroma; perfect before dinner to ready the palate  
 Muscat / Moscato  A fruity, sweet white wine with tropical flavors, a key component of some sparkling white wines  
 Pinot Grigo / Pinot Gris  A dry white with a wide range of flavors and aromas, from light and crisp to full and soft.  
 Reisling  A full, fruity, soft wine that ranges from dry to sweet and low acid to very acidic  
 Sauvignon Blanc  An intense, crisp wine with aromas of grass, herbs and bitter fruit  
 Sémillon  A sweet yet dry wine used in fine dessert wines, but also often blended with Sauvignon Blanc  
 Viognier  A dry white made from superior, rare grapes in the Rhône region of France; recommended as a before-dinner drink  


« Previous...Wine Basics for the Bartender Part 2: Major Types of Red and White Wine
» Next...Wine Basics for the Bartender Part 4: Wine Storage Suggestions

Become an FSW Insider

Contact Information


Information & Inspiration for the pro


Information & Inspiration for the home cook